"Pogey Ropes" & Australian Babes
While serving with the Army’s 2nd Division during the Great War, the 5th Marines and the 6th Marines so distinguished themselves that France awarded them the Croix de Guerre with palm leaf on three occasions. This unusual honor permits the men of these regiments to wear on their left shoulder a “fourragère” (braided cord) in the colors of the Croix de Guerre. While the men are very proud of this distinction, other Marines tend to denigrate it (though not always in public), for example, referring to the fourragères sported by their comrades as “pogey-ropes”. During the Second World War some jealous Marines managed to put their lack of the fourragère to good use, thus putting one over on their comrades of the 5th Marines.
The war opened for the 5th Marines in rather spectacular fashion on August 7, 1942, when they landed on Guadalcanal. In December, with the worst of that hard fight over, their division (the First) was relieved and sent to Melbourne, Australia, for rest and recuperation.
The Marines found that they were very welcome in Australia, a visible symbol of America’s desire help defend the Commonwealth. As so many Australian men were out of the country, fighting from the deserts of North Africa to the jungles and swamps of Papua-New Guinea, the Marines found themselves immensely popular with the women. But the men of the 5th Marines soon began to notice that they seemed to be having less luck with the ladies than their comrades. It didn’t take long to find out why.
Noticing that most of the men in the 1st Marine Division did not have the fourragère, curious Australians inquired as to why some did. Some quick witted fourragère-less Marines informed the Aussies that the cords indicated that the wearer had VD.
When the men of the 5th Marines learned about this, a number of impressive brawls reportedly followed.
King and the Professor
King Frederick Wilhelm I of Prussia (r. 1730-1740), had a passionate belief that the taller a man was, the better a soldier he made. In keeping with this belief, he filled his 6th Infantry Regiment with men 6’ 2” or taller – some even over 7’ -- and dubbed it the "Potsdamer Riesengarde”, which translates as the “Giant Guard of Potsdam”, commonly known in English as the “Potsdam Giants”. Frederick Wilhelm found recruits for his new regiment anywhere, and any way, he could. He not only combed his ancestral lands for likely fellows, but also sent agents out across Europe to find and recruit, by whatever means necessary, men of suitable altitude. Reportedly a very tall priest was once kidnapped from the altar of a church in Italy by some of the king’s minions.
Frederick Wilhelm lavished much attention on his “Giants”, personally drilling them daily, paying them more than ordinary soldiers, and so on. His obsession was such that people who wished to gain his favor or his friendship would secure a few suitable recruits for him. Of course, this was relatively easy for his fellow monarchs and noblemen, who could conscript likely peasants and ship them off to Potsdam, but not so easy for ordinary people.
There’s a tale that a certain professor, seeking an important post at one of Prussia’s universities, decided that, since he was unable to curry the king’s favor by finding him a suitably tall recruit, he would try something else. So the good professor wrote a learned thesis “proving” the moral and physical superiority of tall men, using citations from Scripture (though he apparently omitted Goliath of Gath), as well as the Greeks and Romans, and some examples from more recent history.
When completed, the man submitted his work to the king.
Alas, the effort failed miserably. Despite his obsession with tall soldiers, King Frederick Wilhelm could not accept Herr Doktor Professor’s thesis, as the king himself measured only 5’ 3”.